Russian Shtoorm at the European Club Crew Championships

St Petersburg, 4 & 5 August 2007

01 August 2007
Full race results are available here for the 12th EDBF European Club Crew Championships.

Shtoorm dominated premier open,
mixed and womens class distances.
16 August 2007 - The spirit of good sportsmanship has never been more in evidence than at the 12th European Club Crew Championships held in St Petersburg, Russia, over the weekend of 4-5th August 2007. When the paddlers and race officials arrived on site earlier in the week, they were confronted with championship facilities that frankly were not up to the standards expected at an EDBF Championship. But with hard work by the IDBF race officials and lots of understanding from the crews the actual races were well organized and some great racing, especially from the Russian crews, became the hallmark of the weekend.

Moscow Masters celebrates Silver Medal
in the premier open class 500m.
Arriving at the race venue on Thursday, race officials discovered that the facilities were not yet ready for the non-EDBF races the following day as the local host organization had yet to provide all the equipment needed to run the championships.

Race day dawned on Friday with competitions for corporate and student crews. Normally these races fall outside the main EDBF event and are run by a local race organizer. However, with no local race officials available the IDBF officials just rolled up their sleeves and got on with organizing the races.

At the EDBF Crew Managers Meeting in the afternoon, EDBF Chairman, Alan van Caubergh and President Mike Haslam, briefed the crews on the organizational problems that were being faced and said that it was now up to the crews and officials together to make the Championship work and over the next few days this is exactly what everybody did, bringing great credit to themselves and the sport.

It is the willingness of everyone in our sport to work together for the common good that makes our sport so different and attractive and this spirit of co-operation was never more keenly felt than in St Petersburg, throughout the racing weekend.

Registrations for the Championships were still trickling in on Friday and so the race scheme had to be revised - a chore that takes hours of hard work and concentration.

"Paddlers had spent money to travel thousands of kilometers distance, so you don´t want to disappoint them by saying, ´sorry, you didn´t meet the entry deadline, so you can´t paddle,´ " said Phyll MacKeddie, the Race Secretary, who was working on the revised weekend race program as the local races were underway.

On the regatta site, the security men who had been hired spent their time hanging around race control, instead of patrolling the grounds and a local construction project meant that huge concrete and gravel trucks were barreling through the center of the venue all day long, kicking up dust and threatening to squash paddlers. Heavy equipment was busy erecting the tribunes along the race course while the corporate and student crews were assembling nearby. Meanwhile, the EDBF club crews were arriving for their practice slots, placing a huge demand on the available boats.

With some clever juggling of boats, the generous cooperation of crews showing up for practice slots and a healthy dose of muscle power and inventiveness, crews with reservations for practice could all get in at least a half hour practice and only one crew (who arrived without a reserved time slot and demanded to be placed in a boat when all boats were needed for racing) had to be turned away.

So the scene was set for the first championship races on Friday evening, the Mixed 2000m races with 15 crews entered. Victor Kisselev, President of the Russian DBF had underestimated the amount of work and the time needed to run the corporate and student races earlier in the day so the EDBF competition was a bit later starting than planned. With St Petersburg light well into the evening during the summer, the 2000m Mixed races kicked off around 7:00 p.m.

As crews started to load for the race, there was anxiety because the races would have to be run with a mixed set of boats. The local organizer had provided six, 12-bench Gemini boats and four,10-bench Plastex boats. Though the boats might have differed from each other in weight and interior finish, technically all the boat hulls were the same as they were made to IDBF specification. For the four boat 200m and 500m races, boats could be matched in sets but for the 2000m races this was not possible, so the top seeded crews in each heat raced in the 10 bench boats and the others in the 12 bench boats, thus making each race as fair as possible.

In spite of a snapped steering oar,
Moravian paddlers show good spirit.
On the water, the 2000m Premier Mixed races proved to be dramatic as well as exciting, when the Moravian Dragons (Cze) could be seen zigzagging wildly across the lanes, down the last 500m straight, causing a minor collision and a few near-misses. When Moravian finally made it back to the boat marshaling area, the cause of their erratic course became clear - the blade of the carbon steering oar had completely broken away from the shaft. The helmsman of the boat, Martin Prchal, said it came off as he was taking the last turn, sending him flying into the water: "The boat was so fast! I popped up and saw three boats bearing down on me, so I dived down into the water to keep from being hit. One of my paddlers jumped onto the back bench of our Boat and steered with her paddle. I swam to the nearest bank and our crew finished the race without me." Moravian finished in 9th place overall.

The Premier Mixed 2000m was actually won by Shtoorm taking the first of their many Gold Medals of the weekend in 9.09.76. Moscow Masters took Silver in 9.10.12 and Burevesinik (Rus) the Bronze, in 9.37.07. Kiev were placed fourth; St Petersburg fifth and Uckermark (Ger) sixth. The Senior Mixed 2000m was won by Elb Meadow (Ger) in 9.54.78 followed by Pskov (Rus) in 10.01.05 and Raba Aqua (Hun) in 10.05.51. Victorya (Rus) took the Junior Gold (9.52.87) with Malbork (Pol) taking Silver in 10.11.67 and Lighthouse (Ger) winning the Bronze in 10.53.06.

By the end of Friday’s races, the two reserve boats were out of commission and one of the three carbon steering oars were broken, as well as damage to some heads and tails. As always, most of the drum sticks had also disappeared and Victor Kisselev had the overnight task of finding replacements and carrying out repairs.

Friday had been a very long day, especially for the race officials with racing finishing at around 21:30 but the weather had been sunny and calm and the forecast for the weekend remained good, so with a full weekend’s racing to look forward to, paddlers and officials returned to their hotels for a brief but good night’s rest.

By the dawn of Saturday, for the 200m Championships, conditions were improving and most of the essential equipment and facilities were now in place. The boat marshals quickly set about getting the boats ready to go on the water. The surviving heads were re-mounted on the boats, and the most badly damaged head appeared, miraculously repaired overnight. A few Russians were busy screwing the boat number plates onto the boats and there were just enough steering oars for the two boat sets plus a reserve boat. However, most of the rope for tying on steering oars and mooring boats had disappeared overnight, probably "borrowed" to serve as laundry drying lines for the paddlers camping next to the regatta site!

A few minutes before the first race was due to start, the boats were ready and loading the crews began. In spite of the odds and late arriving crews, the starting gun went off but 20 minutes later than scheduled. Time that was soon made up as the revised race schedule included time gaps, during the first heats, to balance a late start.

Most of the crews soon realized that the races were being run with matched sets of boats, four to a set, but it still took a lot of effort from the boat marshals and a lot of cooperation from the crews to turn around boats quickly so that each race could continue to have a matched boat set. As for the only race with 5 boats, with four of the crews in the older 12 bench boats and one in a new 10 bench boat - which the crews had been certain were better and faster, it was the crew in the new 10 bench boat that came over the finish lane last - nearly two full boat lengths behind the old 12 benchers, which only goes to prove that it is crews that win races, not the boats they are in!

One of many medal ceremonies at the
2007 EDBC Club Crew Championships.
The 200m Mixed and Open races were dominated by Russian crews, particularly Shtoorm who took the Gold Medals in the Premier Mixed Championships in 0.44.98, as well as the Premier Women’s - 0.51.05 and the Premier Open title in 0.44.09, with Moscow Masters taking the Silver Medal in 0.44.54 (as they had earlier done in the Premier Mixed Grand Final in 0.46.41) and Moravian (Cze) the Premier Bronze in 0.45.37. Kiev DBC were fourth in 0.46.09.

In the Premier Mixed, local crew St Petersburg took the Bronze (0.46.91) and in the Premier Women’s Championship, Wild of Prague won Silver (0.52.30) with Tragedky (Cze) taking the Bronze in 0.53.02. Burevestnik (Rus) took fourth place in 0.53.94.

For the Juniors, both the Mixed and Open races were won by Victorya (Rus), with the Mixed Silver being won by Malbork (Pol) and Lighthouse (Ger) taking the Bronze. Volga (Rus) took the Silver in the Open competition in which two crews did not race.

The Senior Medals were a little more spread out with Pskov (Rus) taking Gold in the Senior Mixed, followed by Elb Meadow (Ger) and Raba Aqua (Hun) taking Bronze. In the Senior Open 200m Moscow Dragons took the title in 0.46.29, with OK Smoki (Pol) winning Silver (0.47.33) and Master Chaykovskiy (Rus) the Bronze in 0.47.87.

But as Saturday wore on there were dark clouds gathering on the horizon and the winds were picking up. The weather reports were not very promising for Sunday’s races. At one point, EDBF President Mike Haslam, spoke to the Head Sports Commissioner for Saint Petersburg who was watching the races and had apologized for conditions at the race site. He asked what he could do to help make things better since he didn’t want visitors to St Petersburg to have such a bad impression. Mike had one important request - more tents to shelter the paddlers. Luckily, the prayers must have worked, because while the commissioner’s tents never appeared, neither did the rain.

2000m turns, always a tense
and exciting moment in racing!
After some great 200m racing, finally on Saturday came the remaining 2000m races. Yes, there were minor violations in the turns and in maintaining lane position, but it’s a real test for the helms and drummer since they have to control their boat and are essential to monitoring and maintaining lane position. It’s a challenge for the course umpires, as boats are quickly changing positions, exciting for the spectators because of the turns and enjoyed to the full by the competing crews. Both the Junior and Senior 2000m went off without too many problems, as did the last race of the day the Premier Open 2000m, which with only 9 good boats now available, was run in two heats and the times then put into order.

The 2000m Premier women’s race also went off without incident until the second to last turn, when crews ended up in a mixture that raised protests at the end of the race. At the last turn, Shtoorm suddenly went out of control with a repeat of the broken steering oar problem of the night before and promptly blamed Kiev for causing the damage.

Due to the protests and lane violations, the results of the Premier Open and Premier Women’s 2000m races took hours to work out and weren’t available until the next day. While everyone was curious about the results, most paddlers said that they would rather have the officials take their time to ensure a fair result.

Video evidence and interviewing the helms of the crews concerned confirmed that in the Premier Women’s 2000m, Kiev were the innocent party and that in fact it was Shtoorm who had caused the 2nd turn collisions. Once time penalties and bonuses had been taken into account the results were posted. Despite everything Shtoorm were placed third (10.20.01) and Kiev in second place (10.19.24) with Wild of Prague taking the Gold Medal in first place, with a time of 10.16.65.

The Open Premier 2000m was won by Moscow Masters in 9.03.73, with Shtoorm an extremely close second place in 9.03.93 and Moravian Dragons third, in 9.09.18, followed by Uzho-Ural University (Rus); Kiev (Ukr), Wann-see Dragons (Ger; Ukermark (Ger); St Petersburg (Rus) and Club Adventure (Pol).

Moscow Dragons took Gold in the Senior Open in 9.22.56, followed by OK Smoki in 9.26.36 and Master Chaykovskiy in 9.26.64. Victorya won the Junior Open in 10.00.92, with Volga Dragons in second place in 10.39.21.

Sunday morning, the last race day, dawned a sunny day in spite of predictions for rain. Now the paddlers and officials had settled into a rhythm and it seemed no more surprises could arise and the stake boats for the 500m held starts were now finally in place, which was a good thing, especially with the wind starting to play up.

While the weather gods smiled on the races, the equipment gods weren’t listening to anyone´s prayers. In the boat marshaling area everyone got down to work to make the boats ready for the racing day. The reserve steering oar had disappeared overnight, but just as panic was beginning to set in, along came one of the Russians with a reserve. Luckily the oar wasn’t needed during the course of the day, but an extra reserve boat would have helped greatly.

After one heat, the steering oar mount on boat 6 broke as the boat was being moved to the marshalling area. The first thought was to cannibalize the steering mount from the reserve boat and use it to repair boat 6. It would have been easier just to use the reserve boat, but the reserve boat had taken a battering in Friday’s festival racing and was in poorer condition, so the aim was to keep boat 6 in service as long as it wouldn’t delay the race.

Boat marshals mending boat 6
Within minutes the steering mounts were switched and boat 6 was back in service for the next heat. Amazingly, no time was lost in getting ready to load. It was an effort worthy of a well-oiled Grand Prix pit crew! Luckily, there were no other incidents or major equipment failures during the remainder of the Championships.

As for the 500m Championships, again close and exciting races were the order of the day, despite an increasing head wind that reflected in the times. In the morning’s Mixed races, the Russian crews picked up from where they had left off in Saturday’s 200m races, taking all the Mixed Gold Medals.

In the Juniors Victorya made a clean sweep followed by Malbork and Lighthouse and in the Senior Mixed, Pskov, Elb Meadow and Raba Aqua again shared the medals. The Mixed Premier title again went to Shtoorm in 1.58.08, with Uzho Ural (1.59.16) and Moscow Masters (1.59.17) completing the Russian medals tally. Kiev finished in fourth place in 2.00.07.

The Open 500m races followed a familiar pattern with Victorya completing their Gold Medal tally in the Junior event and Master Chaykovsky taking the Senior Gold in 2.02.04, followed by Moscow Dragons (2.02.05) and OK Smoki (Pol) in 02.07.15.

Just to make it clear who were "the Champions of Europe", Shtoorm wrapped up both the Premier Women’s and Open 500m titles with a 2.13.20 and 1.57.18 respectively.

Club Adventure cheering Spree Sisters
& Tragedky after Premier Women´s
500m minor final.
In the Women´s division, Kiev took the Silver with a 2.17.10 and Wild of Prague the Bronze Medal in 2.17.19. Moscow Dragons added another Silver to their tally in 1.59.06 and Morovian Dragons (Cze) completed their weekend with a Bronze Medal in 2.01.13, with Wann-sea Dragons (Ger) placed fourth in 2.02.05.

As the last Championship Medals were handed out, which included a set each for the hard working IDBF race officials, and with the sound of happy paddlers singing their crew songs as last minutes photographs were taken, it was time to relax, enjoy the sun and to reflect on the 12th European Club Crew Championships now past.

Compiled from reports by Mike Haslam and Kim Beckwith


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